Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 3

Parker's The People's BibleParker's The People's Bible

Verses 1-27

2 Kings 3:0

1. Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign [lit., reigned] over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.

2. And he wrought evil [did the evil in the eyes] in the sight of the Lord: but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away [and he removed] the image [(Heb., "statue") pillar. Comp. 2Ch 34:4 ] of Baal that his father had made.

3. Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam [1 Kings 12:28 , seq., 1 Kings 16:2 , 1Ki 16:26 ] the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom ["from it"].

4. ¶ And Mesha [" deliverance, salvation"] king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool.

5. But [And] it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled [refused payment of the annual tribute] against the king of Israel.

6. ¶ And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time [lit., in that day] and numbered [mustered, made a levy of] all Israel.

7. And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me; wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle [or, into Moab to the war]? And he [Jehoram] said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.

8. And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered [said i.e., Jehoshaphat], The way through the wilderness of Edom [a vassal king appointed by Jehoshaphat ( 1Ki 22:48 )].

9. So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them.

10. And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the Lord hath called these three kings together [omit "together"] to deliver them into the hand of Moab!

11. But [And] Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him [same question asked in 1Ki 22:7 ]? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha, the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.

12. And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the Lord is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

13. And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father [ i.e., the Baal prophets (comp. 1Ki 18:19 ), and false prophets of Jehovah ( 1Ki 22:6-11 ), Elisha's sarcasm indicates that the former had not been wholly rooted out] and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay [say not so, or, repel me not (comp. Rth 1:13 )]: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.

14. And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand [as a minister (comp. 1 Kings 17:1 , 1Ki 18:15 )], surely, were it not that I regard the presence [lift the face (comp. Genesis 19:21 ; Gen 32:21 )] of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.

15. But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him [in some MSS. "the Spirit of the Lord;" but comp. 1Ki 18:46 ].

16. And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches, [lit., pits (comp. Gen 14:10 )].

17. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind [which in the East is the usual precursor of rain], neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.

18. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.

19. And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree [ i.e., fruit-bearing trees], and stop [Genesis 26:15 , Gen 26:18 ] all wells of water, and mar [lit., make to grieve, Isaiah 24:4 ; Jer 12:4 ] every good piece of land with stones.

20. And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat-offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.

21. ¶ And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered [lit., had been summoned, called together ( Jdg 7:23 )] all that were able to [lit., gird himself with a girdle] put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.

22. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:

23. And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain [Heb., destroyed], and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.

24. And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites [who were unprepared for resistance], so that they fled before them: but [or, they smote in it, even smiting] they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.

25. And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; [all this as Elisha foretold ( 2Ki 3:19 )] and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees [Heb., until he left the stones thereof in Kir-haraseth]: only in Kir-haraseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it [surrounded it], and smote it.

26. ¶ And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.

27. Then [And] he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel [or, and great wrath fell upon Israel]: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

Jehoram and Moab

Jehoram undertakes an expedition against king Mesha, but in doing so he pays a tribute to the power of the king of Moab by allying with himself Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and also the king of Edom. A remarkable character is given of Jehoram. He was not an imitator of the evil of his father as to its precise form, but he had his own method of serving the devil. We should have thought that Ahab and Jezebel had exhausted all the arts of wickedness, but it turns out that Jehoram had found a way of his own of living an evil life. Warned by the untimely fate of his brother, which had fallen upon him expressly on account of his Baal-worship, Jehoram began his reign by an ostentatious abolition of the Phoenician state religion which his father had introduced. Jehoram went back to the olden times and re-established the worship of the calf, after the pattern which Jeroboam its founder had patronised. His doing so, however, he found to be quite compatible with a secret allowance that the people should practise their own form of worship. There is room in wickedness for the exercise of genius of a certain limited kind. The limitation is imposed by wickedness itself, for after all wickedness is made up of but few elements. Many persons suppose that if they do not sin according to the prevailing fashion they are not sinning at all. They imagine that by varying the form of the evil they have mitigated the evil itself. A good deal of virtue is supposed to consist in reprobating certain forms of vice. A man may be no drunkard, according to the usual acceptation of the term, and yet he may be in a continual state of intoxication. It is possible to shudder at what is usually known as persecution, and yet all the while to be beheading enemies and burning martyrs. Jehoram made a kind of trick of wickedness; he knew how to give a twist to old forms, or a turn to old ways, so as to escape part of their vulgarity and yet to retain all their iniquity. A most alarming thought it is to the really spiritual mind that men may become adepts in wickedness, experts in evil-doing, and may be able so to manage their corrupt designs as to deceive many observers by a mere change of surface or appearance. We do not amend the idolatry by altering the shape of the altar. We do not destroy the mischievous power of unbelief by throwing our scepticism into metaphysical phrases, and making verbal mysteries where we might have spiritual illumination. We are deceived by things simply because we ourselves live a superficial life and read only the history of appearances. What is the cure for all this manipulation of evil, this changing of complexion of form, and this consequent imagining that the age is improving because certain phenomena which used to be so patent are no longer discernible on the face of things? We come back to the sublime doctrine of regeneration, as the answer to the great inquiry, What is the cure for this heart-disease? "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." We may change either the language or the manners of wickedness, or the times and seasons for doing wicked things; we may decorate our wickedness with many beautiful colours, but so long as the heart itself is unchanged, decoration is useless; yea, worse than useless, for it is a vain attempt to make that look true which is false an endeavour even to deceive Omniscience itself.

"And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool. But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel" ( 2Ki 3:4-5 ).

The way of the approach having been settled, the kings proceeded to fetch a compass of seven days' journey round by the south end of the Dead Sea. They little knew the difficulty that would arise in their way. We do not read that they made any religious enquiry at the outset of their journey, and therefore no responsibility could be charged upon God for the misadventure which occurred. The three kings seem to have consulted only with themselves, and to have resolved in their own counsel and strength upon their expedition against Mesha. What was the misadventure which occurred? It is related in the ninth verse: "And there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them." Even kings are dependent upon nature. Think of three kings, who supposed themselves at least to be very mighty, and all their people, stopped in their career simply for want of water; at how many points does God lay his hand upon us and say, Beyond this limit you cannot go without an acknowledgment of a power higher than your own! Again and again we have seen this in many relations of life. For weeks together we go forward as if a high road had been prepared for us, and, lo! in a moment we come to a place where our thirst reminds us that we want a well or a fountain, and looking round we discover that the whole land is barren, and that no spring invites us to its hospitality. Many men would deny God in religion if they could deny him or get rid of him altogether in nature. There are a thousand ways to church! Even nature becomes a kind of sanctuary when we find it impossible to extract anything from it even by the exercise of our ripest wisdom and completest strength. The barren harvest field is a far more likely place for prayer and supplication than is the field which is rich with the gold of mature wheat. We are more likely to turn an empty barn into a church than a full one. But it is thus through the body that God makes an assault upon the mind. Where there would be no consideration whatever of a religious kind, where circumstances were all favourable, there may be a kind of whimpering as of a coward's voice when the fig-tree does not blossom and when there is no herd in the stall.

A very pitiable and yet very instructive picture is this of three kings and their armies standing still merely for want of water. The so-called little things of life are often turned into not only things that are great but things that are vital. Blessed indeed would be the man who sees even in natural arrangements and daily providences a call to him to lift up his head towards the heavens, and ask great questions about being and duty and destiny. So we have the usual religious appeal: "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him?" ( 2Ki 3:11 ). We put off enquiring of the Lord until the very last, until our lips are so dry that they can hardly open to utter their long-deferred appeal. God has only to pursue what may be termed a negative course of providence in order to bring some men to their senses. The visitations of God may be described as either positive or negative: sometimes he comes in destructive tempests, in devastating epidemics, in cholera, small-pox, and other diseases which mow down the people in hundreds and thousands, and then a great cry goes up from the decimated nation, asking in the name of pity that the tremendous visitation may be withdrawn; sometimes, on the other hand, God adopts a kind of negative treatment of the nation, with a view to testing its quality and purpose, it does not rain, the sun is hidden for many a day, the ground does not bring forth plentifully, the rivers are dried up. What is the consequence of all this negation? Extremes meet: the result of the negative amounts to the same as the result of the positive, emptiness, suffering, desolation, death. There need not be any demonstration of anger on the part of God, as anger is usually under-Stood: he has but to be indifferent to us, to let go his hold of us, to think of us no more, and this negative economy eventuates in our ruin, as certainly as if the Lord had smitten us with swords from heaven, or sent a destroying angel visibly into our midst.

Elisha now assumes a new attitude, and one certainly not destitute of spiritual grandeur. Turning to the king of Israel, he said:

"What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab" ( 2Ki 3:13 ).

Now we come to a better phase of this history, namely, to the saving element, which appears and reappears in the course of our changeful life. Elisha was not to be placated by the king of Israel. In his eyes a vile person was contemned. The king of Israel was but a poor frail thing in the presence of a man who lived with God and was commissioned to denounce the judgments of heaven against evil. But the world is not made up of Jehorams. Blessed be God, there are men of another type whose very presence saves society from judicial ruin. "And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee" ( 2Ki 3:14 ). Now we know that the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha! We seem to hear the very tones of the old master in the new disciple. Is it not always so in life that it is one man who saves many: that the ten righteous men save the city, and that Paul saves all those who sail with him in the midst of the tempestuous sea? Your house is saved because of your little child. Your whole estate is protected from ruin because your wife is a praying woman. Your life would be cut off tomorrow in shame and disgrace, were it not that you have entered upon an inheritance of prayers laid up for you by those who went before. Life thus becomes very sacred and very tender, and we know not to whom we are under the deepest obligations. Enough to know that somewhere there is a presence that saves us, there is an influence that guards our life, and that we owe absolutely nothing in the way of security or honour to bad kings or bad men of any name. Wherever is it said, Because of the wickedness of this man society will be spared; or, because of the unfaithfulness of that man the nation will be allowed to continue? Nowhere is good influence attached to wicked policy. Everywhere wickedness goes down under judgment, and is thundered against mightily from heaven; and everywhere God declares that all grace, favour, protection and security must be traced to the presence of some saving element in society. This is a social figure by which we work our way upward to the highest truths. The whole universe itself is saved because of the presence of the Son of God. He "ever liveth to make intercession for us." Whilst he lives our day of mercy will be continued. When he ascends from his mediatorial throne, the sun of grace is set to rise no more!

The remainder of the chapter is occupied with a prophecy of Elisha, and by a statement of the overthrow of the king of Moab. Nothing now could save Mesha. A strong delusion was sent upon him to believe a lie. When water came down by way of Edom, and the whole country was filled with it, the Moabites rose up early in the morning, and as the sun shone upon the water, the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood. It looked so like blood that they declared it to be blood, and believing" that the kings were slain who had come up against them, the Moabites advanced to the spoil. Alas! they advanced to their ruin. "Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab; every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken." "My bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kir-haresh." The king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him. In his despair he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom, but through the iron wall he could net force his way. In his madness he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and flung him for a burnt offering upon the wall. But the Lord will not be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil, nor will he accept the firstborn for a man's transgression or the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. Mark the fate of those who oppose God; even to men who object to the name of God, the word Destiny may come with some force of appeal. Let us say, therefore, in the language of fatalism, How awful a thing it is to attempt to oppose destiny! Who can fight it? who can smite it? who can take the measure of it? Behold, here we are at an utter loss; we are without sense or force or power of adequate treatment. The Christian man, however, objects to the word destiny, except it be associated with the name and providence of the living God; the Christian says, "Who can fight against God?" and again, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;" and again, "On whomsoever this stone shall fall it shall grind him to powder." Pitiable at the last will be the spectacle presented by the wicked. They shall call upon the rocks and upon the hills to cover them, but the rocks and the hills will make no reply to their vain appeal. "Behold, he cometh with clouds: and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." "They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth." "They shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us" how long shall we insist upon opposing God lifting up a puny arm against his omnipotence? Let us hear what shall befall us if we persist in this rebellion of spirit: "When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you." "Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: and they shall be afraid." Wise men should look out for these final troubles, and not delude themselves with the notion that all things will continue as they are today. "Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap." "Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him." Let us turn aside from these terrific issues, and find refuge whilst we may. The door of mercy stands open; the throne of grace is yet accessible: "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little."

Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jpb/2-kings-3.html. 1885-95.
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